Four leading and award-winning international filmmakers create a highly charged anthology or erotic short films told from a female point-of-view.
eyelights: its concept. its erotic bits.
eyesores: its performances. its uneven tone.
“He did have a beautiful body, though…”
‘Erotique’ is a portemanteau film that consists of four shorts written by women and directed by four different female directors. It was given a limited release in 1994 and has essentially disappeared from distribution since. Even the DVD is long out of print.
But I tracked a copy down, at some expense, expecting something a little like the ‘Bliss‘ television series, but with more creative freedom and greater erotic license. The fact that some of the people involved were familiar to me gave me some hope.
I wasted no time watching it once I got my grubby lil’ hands on it.
1. Let’s Talk About Love: Set in Los Angeles, it finds Kayla, an aspiring actress, working as a phone sex operator to make ends meet. She’s constantly at odds with her supervisor because she’s often late and won’t cater to her callers’ fantasies, imposing instead her own.
Thankfully, one day she gets a caller who likes her approach, and asks her what her fantasies are. They get into lengthy conversations about sex, carrying on over many nights. But she can’t help herself and eventually drives even him away.
With the help of a police friend of hers, she tracks the guy down, and pretends to be a police woman in order to stop by the side of the road. She proceeds to taking advantage of him and having a hot little quickie out in the bushes together.
Frankly, I didn’t much like the character, but I loved the female touches of this story and its frank observations about women and men’s fantasies. Some of the fantasies were pretty sexy and there were some pretty funny takes on phone sex workers.
I did have a concern about the whole police woman bit, because what Kayla and her friend did was harassment, abuse of power. I know it’s a fantasy and I shouldn’t overthink it, but it put me off. With roles reversed, this would have been contentious. 8.0
2. Taboo Parlor: Set in Hamburg, Claire and Julia are in bed discussing getting a man to have sex with. They go to a sex club on a large boat and pick up Victor, the evening’s plaything. Instead of taking their luxury car back to their loft, they get on a local bus.
And make out wildly, with everyone watching.
When they get back home, Claire strips Victor on their bed while Julia falls out of her clothes. Then she leaves the room for Julia and Victor to have some fun. But she has her own sexy plans, and comes back into the room donning a strap-on dildo…
This one was actually pretty sexy, but the story was a bit bare. I did like, however, that writer-director Monika Treut decided to break a few boundaries by making the lesbian couple bi-friendly and polyamourous, and by introducing pegging in it.
..though the guy wasn’t exactly receptive to it.
And there were some intriguing casting choices, like getting Priscilla Barnes as Claire. I’m always surprised to find her in sexy roles, given that she was on ‘Three’s Company’ and in ‘Licence to Kill‘. I’m fond of her, though her Joker smile is creepy.
I was also very surprised to find singer Tanita Tikaram in a bit part as Claire’s butchy secretary. Her performance was rather amateurish, but her appearance made an impression on me – perhaps because the scene portrays a tight and insular lesbian world.
I just found it interesting that Claire would have a lesbian lover, a female personal assistant and that this assistant would be comfortable enough to walk into their bedroom to talk business with Claire. Where are the boundaries in this sapphic reality? 7.75
3. Final Call: Set in Minas Gereis, it finds a teacher taking a train to New York to do her Master’s degree in English. On the way there, she literally bumps into a renowned photographer. There’s a spark, but they’re sadly not seated in the same part of the train.
In her compartment arrive two ruffians who take advantage of the fact that they’re alone with the young woman to molest her. But our anonymous photographer has been looking for her and arrives in a nick of time to chase the two men away and save the day.
When the train stops at a small town, he takes her for a walk and they make out under a fall. Soon they’re at a hotel, making love passionately. But now she has to decide whether or not to leave him behind to make her train, or stay a bit longer…
After the first two shorts, this one fell flat. It’s more jokey than erotic, it’s edited in snippets, in an episodic fashion, the overdub is bloody terrible. and the score is discrepant. Still, the sexy bits were very nice. And check out her dimples! 6.25
4. Wonton Soup: Set in Hong Kong, it finds Adrian and Ann reuniting after six months apart. Naturally, the first thing they do is to get down. Unfortunately, she’s convinced that it can’t continue. And, though they visit longer and have more sex, they part ways.
Dejected, Adrian asks his uncle for advice, so the older man tells him about Chinese culture, gives him a sex manual and offers sex tips. Adrian dutifully practices the teachings by himself, in the hope of winning over Ann. And of course he does.
My main problem with this one was Adrian, who is ignorant and a bit goofy. I guess he’s supposed to be funny, but I found him irritating. It really didn’t help that Tim Lounibos wasn’t a particularly convincing actor: I hated watching Adrian.
And his transformation into a great lover was just not credible: he was far too unsubtle, so much so that it was laughable. And the sex was shot in such a way that it was clear that they weren’t joined at the hip. So it was hard to get into the moment.
I did, however, like that they tried to impart upon audiences the values of Asian sexual philosophy. I’ve long believed that Western culture could do with some refinement and is lacking perspective on sexuality. So I laud the effort. Nice try. 6.25
Interestingly, the film was presented in different configurations around the world: in some places, “Taboo Parlour” was switched with “Wonton Soup”. In some places, “Final Call” was omitted. It’s not uncommon: it also happened to ‘Al di là delle nuvole‘.
I’m not sure if it’s to cater to local audiences, or if the different distributors had creative control in their areas, but it’s slightly annoying that there isn’t a definitive cut of this film. I mean, whose creative vision did ‘Erotique’ serve, exactly?
The shorts have no connecting thread whatsoever, but someone made a lame attempt at tying them together by setting a 9AM time for L.A., then captioning the Hamburg one as “2 weeks later”, Brazil as “10 days later” and Hong Kong as “3 weeks later”.
I’m not sure why they bothered; it contributed little other than raising questions about the connections, temporarily preventing the audience from immersing themselves in the fantasy. It was a lazy device that did a disservice to the final product.
‘Erotique’ is a great idea that’s marred by its wildly inconsistent tone, starting with some sexy stuff and then going a little nutty for its final two shorts. The worst thing is that this tone would have changed considerably in different countries.
It might just be a question of expectations, given its title, but I found the last two shorts too silly outside of the sexy bits to sustain the heat created by the first two. Of course, in some countries the hot ones would instead have been bookends.
Hmmm… maybe the anthology would work better in that configuration.
Someday I may re-edit it to find out.
Date of viewing: May 17, 2017